Pay As You Go Business Momo’s Cheesecake Relies on Trust

lemon blueberry and apple crisp cheesecakes photo credit Momo's Cheesecakes
Photo Courtesy of Momo's Cheesecakes

Momo’s Cheesecakes Bakery in Ellsworth, Maine is a dessert destination, luring in customers from hours away. According to owner Brenda “Momo” Ledezma, customers rave about the creaminess of her products. But there’s another thing that sets Momo’s Cheesecakes apart. It operates on the honor system.

Ledezma began her baking business as a side hustle. A longtime bartender, she started making desserts and bringing them in to sell at her workplace. Eventually, she focused exclusively on cheesecakes due to their popularity, and as her bakery grew, her employer told her she had to find an alternative way to get her treats to her customers.

“I couldn’t give up my other job, and I worked 12 hour shifts, so I couldn’t be here [at home] and there [at work]. I knew my regular people, so I told them to stop by my house. I put a cooler in my garage,” she said.

“One thing led to another. At first I was making $10, $20 a day. Now it’s a full-blown business.”

variety cheesecakes in cooler photo credit Momo's Cheesecakes

Photo Courtesy of Momo’s Cheesecakes

Although her bakery has expanded exponentially over the past several years (Ledezma quit her bartending job last July to work at the bakery full-time, and she now has two full-time employees), the honor system she developed out of necessity has remained the same. The self-serve bakery is open 24/7. Customers help themselves to a slice or a whole cheesecake from a cooler and leave cash or a check behind for payment.

“Everybody likes to be trusted,” said Ledezma. “They leave me gifts, food they make, they leave extra money. If they forget to pay, they send a check in the mail.”

“A guy told me yesterday that he went down the road 20 miles, realized he forgot to pay and then came back.”

Momo’s Cheesecakes’ no-contact, grab-and-go service has been ideally suited to social distancing precautions required by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s made us a lot busier,” she said. “We’ve had to build a bigger kitchen and hire more employees. I try to take a day off and I’m not able to.”

candy bar cheesecake cooler photo credit Momo's Cheesecakes

Photo Courtesy of Momo’s Cheesecakes

The bakery makes 70 to 100 cheesecakes per day, in 60 flavors ranging from fruit-focused options like lemon blueberry to candy bar-inspired Kit Kat. Ledezma’s favorite is also one of her bestsellers: Turtle cheesecake topped with hot fudge, pecans, walnuts and caramel.

“Our cheesecakes are made with a lot of love,” she said. “We put a lot of sauce on each slice. To me, they’re beautiful.”

In addition to the self-serve bakery, Ledezma sells her cheesecakes wholesale and customers can find them at 25 local supermarkets and convenience stores.

variety cheesecake photo credit Momo's Cheesecakes

Photo Courtesy of Momo’s Cheesecakes

Over the years, Momo’s Cheesecakes has welcomed customers from across the United States and around the world. The bakery has a guest book for people to write in and a map for them to pin their hometown.

“It’s our customers who spread the word to other people,” said Ledezma. “I’d like to thank them all for their honesty and trustworthiness.”

Check out another Maine business here.

AUTHOR

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist focusing on food and travel. Her writing has been published in Hemispheres, Midwest Living and Wine Enthusiast, and she blogs at Tangled Up In Food.

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